Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Will we lose lower Spencer Creek Trail? Is that a bad thing or a trade off for the environment?

An exciting Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) project to realign lower spencer creek into a more natural, meandering channel promises ecological benefits to the floodplain ecology. But will users of the popular Spencer Creek Trail lose out?

The Hamilton Conservation Authority is in early stages of planning, but are hoping to keep some form of trail through natural features. It's too early to say, according to Scott Peck, Director of Watershed Planning and Engineering.

"The preliminary design is to move the trail closer to Cootes Drive, but we are looking at an Environmental Assessment as part of the overall design," says Peck.

Citizens will be consulted about both the natural and recreational aspects of the creek design.

There is no consideration being given to creating a trail to the south of the current creek alignment, due to the sensitive nature of those lands, says Peck, who was just coming from a meeting on the subject.

The lower Spencer Creek Trail is built on the remains of the H&D Rail line which was constructed in the late 19th century. The creek was re-routed from its original meandering channel then, and the resulting straight channel has diminished the creek's function for habitat and seasonal flooding of surrounding land.

The parallel Cootes Drive Multi-Use Trail is a paved, multi-use trail beside Cootes Drive. The realigned creek will be closer to the Cootes path than it is now, as the creek will bend back and forth primarily north of it's current channel, according to preliminary design.

The HCA has some funding in place for the project, and is reviewing the plans before getting public input through an Environmental Assessment.

It's always a balancing act between recreation and nature. I tend toward giving more to nature, and adjusting to a healthier habitat by seeing the value in the trade off. It's not easy, especially since people generally resist change.

Do you use the Spencer Creek Trail? What do you think about the possible changes?

Feel free to share your comments below.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cutting Through

The long straight line that is the rail trail. One of the most beautiful stretches of the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail is the section through Dundas Valley. Forests lean over the trail, give way to fields with long views over the distant city, and in my opinion far surpass the landscape of the more utilitarian farmers fields that make up much of the route between Dundas and Brantford.

Smaller side trails entice the curious to divert into the woodland to follow spring creeks in deep valleys.

Welcome, too, are benches placed at intervals, all with a unique view of the diverse nature. I have my favourite perch where I watch clouds drift by, as the crunching sound of moving feet punctuate a quiet afternoon as people walk or jog the rail trail, or the voices of cyclists conversing as they ride provide brief distractions from solitude.

One of the highlights of any week for me is time to sit alone here and think, or just deep breathe to decompress from a stressful week. There's warm sun ,or dramatic sky, a songbird flitting from branch to branch, or maybe a wandering deer grazing nearby to remind me that we are just cutting through as visitors.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Place with No Name?

Some have called it a hidden lake. At some point in time, this wetland received the name Lake Jojo, likely named by the developer who built the surrounding neighbourhood. There's something about the name Jojo that just makes me feel sorry for a place saddled with that pronoun. Maybe it relates to teen singer JoJo, who my kids used to listen to:

Regardless of the name, there is a feature of hiddenness to this body of water, tucked away out of view from major roads except for glimpses from York Road. At one edge a steep ravine drops from the road to the marsh. Hydro towers connect parallel to the north shore. 

For some it is behind the Community Recycling Centre, or accessed by a trail through Martino Memorial Park. Others have access from the Sleepy Hollow subdivision. 

It's a tight spot with the roads and ravines eating at the edges and leaving little space for paths. The existing unofficial trails aren't strictly coherent in a way that an official trail would be. That is, the trail starts strong at the Martino Park, and then gets lost in a small maze of bike tracks and deer paths. There isn't enough space to have a path that would allow for a path around the entire body of water. 

The small wetland area connects to the larger Cootes Paradise and includes the Delsey Wetland, the soon to be improved/naturalized Desjardin's Canal lands now controlled by the Hamilton Conservation Authority, and Volunteer Marsh. It's a beautiful spot, even with the ugly CRC, and a lowprofile waste water treatment plant.

As we scrounged through the scrub, having started on a deer path, we came across a burrow, still in use, with a small animal skull atop the dug out entrance hole. It wasn't until later, further along the trail that we saw a coyote bolt up a hill about 30 metres from us that we figured out it was a coyote den.

Hidden "lakes" - hidden wildlife homes, this is the complexity of urban nature. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pre-Spring Surprises

The day before this photo was taken it was a balmy 13C and then a major snow storm changed everything back to winter. People bemoaning the loss of the spring-like weather apparently don't appreciate the non-driving winter experience. (Spring isn't officially until the vernal equinox, March 20, so really, it's not fair to complain, is it? Besides, as my dear mom says, we always get snow in April, so please, fellow Southern Ontario residents, steel yourselves for more.)

I enjoyed a short X-country ski with my partner as we skied from our front door, down the middle of the side street and into the historic Hamilton Cemetery, perched so prettily above Cootes Paradise on Burlington Heights.

I'll try and post some April snow pictures here in a few weeks. Wink wink.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A new place to stand?

The Dundas Marsh is frozen through, and covered in several inches of snow. A new platform from which to experience the open sky, and gain a new perspective on the shorelines.

Distance is deceptive when landmarks are lacking. How long will it take to reach the far shore?

The wind, which was at our backs before we turned to trudge back to the Desjardin's Trail, now presses steadily in our faces, and the sun is eclipsed by clouds, the return journey colder.

Over at Princess Point, the distant dark figures of skaters and hockey players silhouetted against the snow is out of time. They could be from a Frank Panabaker painting, and I love that they are there, connecting the city to winter in a tangible and unmediated way.

A cross country skier has left tracks, double lines on a map, connecting north and south shores with their travelling.

Earlier in the winter across the open expanse a friend shot pictures of a coyote eating a fresh killed deer on the ice. Blood, ice, snow. Life. Death.

The frozen marsh provides different kinds of opportunities. Like discovering a new friend, we see everything with eyes wide open, eager for a deeper connection.